THE use of State resources by Swapo ministers for party-related matters has again come to the fore with the three Swapo vice presidential candidates using their official vehicles on their campaign trails.
This weekend social networks were buzzing with accusations that one of the candidates, Hage Geingob, was using the presidential jet for his campaign flights to the Kavango and Caprivi regions.
Geingob's personal assistant, Esau Mbako, yesterday confirmed that Geingob used the jet, saying that the Ministry of Works had been informed that the use of the plane would be for Geingob's personal account.
“Yes that's 100 percent correct. When other candidates are traveling, are they not using government resources? The minister will pay for the use of the jet,” Mbako said.
Jerry Ekandjo, also gunning for the vice president's position, was in Khorixas and Walvis Bay over the weekend, also travelling in government vehicles.
Mbako said there were no complaints when Geingob used his own vehicles to attend government functions.
Mbako said Geingob had followed the right procedure, which included writing two letters to the officials to request the use of the jet, adding that there was nothing wrong with him using the plane.
“Other contestants can also use the jet, as long as they request,” he said.
Job Amupanda, the Swapo Party Youth League secretary of information, said he was not aware that other candidates were using State resources in their Swapo campaigns, but he was aware that Geingob used the presidential jet for the Kavango and Caprivi visits.
The Swapo Youth League proposed and endorsed Ekandjo's candidacy.
Amupanda added that a “personality cult was witnessed this weekend when a minister was awarded a state aircraft presidential jet to go pursue personal activities”.
The candidates contesting for the party's vice president position – Geingob, Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo – have embarked on rigorous campaigns to ensure their victory at the congress scheduled for next week, November 29 to December 2.
Last week Iivula-Ithana launched her campaign with much fanfare at the Swapo Party headquarters. She laid out her vision for Namibia under her presidency. A glossy booklet in which she detailed her plans for the country was released at the campaign launch.
Ekandjo is said to have received a lukewarm reception in Khorixas, where some of the few invited guests asked why ministers were only interested in them during elections.
It is believed that the Kunene Region is divided over which one of the three candidates to support. While some want Geingob to be endorsed, other feel that it should be the choice of individual delegates.
Ekandjo launched his campaign a week ago in the Omusati and Oshana regions and on Friday followed it up with a double-page advertisement in The Namibian, where he explained his history in Swapo and where he planned to take the country.
Geingob met delegates to the Swapo Party watershed congress in the Caprivi Region at the weekend, where they were allegedly required to swear an oath on the Bible that they would vote for incumbent Swapo vice president Geingob at the congress.
Some delegates found the oath taking strange and some even walked out of the meeting, it was reported.
The delegates were allegedly required by the party's regional coordinator to “swear and confirm” their support to Geingob.
The Swapo stalwarts present at the meeting in Katima Mulilo on Saturday were Geingob himself, Veterans' Affairs Minister Nickey Iyambo, Swapo Party deputy secretary general Nangolo Mbumba and Omusati regional coordinator Erick Endjala.
John Ntemwa, a member of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) who attended the meeting, said the atmosphere in which delegates were asked to take the oath made it “very difficult” for them to pledge their support for either Iivula-Ithana or Ekandjo “for fear of victimisation from other comrades”.
“The regional coordinator, Linus Mafale, requested the constituency coordinators to swear and confirm that their delegate's votes are his [Geingob's] and they should do so one by one in his presence. The church elder Mr Jeroam Lutibezi even prayed for Geingob to win and become the leader of the country. Dr Geingob himself said he was requested verbally three times by the Head of State, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, in consultation with the Founding Father, Sam Nujoma, to stand and that's why he requested all regional coordinators to rally behind him,” said Ntemwa.
Ntemwa, who is also the chairperson of the Caprivi Regional Youth Forum, was among the delegates who refused to the take oath and instead walked out of the meeting on Saturday.
“How can they tell me to take an oath in front of the person they are going to vote for? That is why my vote is my secret and they have tainted Caprivi as if all are for Dr Hage. They must know that my vote is my secret,” Ntemwa said.
Mbako denied the allegation that delegates had to pledge their support to Geingob by swearing on the Bible.
“There was absolutely nothing like that,” he said.
Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithan’s phones went unanswered yesterday.